CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Nursing may be just one profession, but the roles that nurses play in our society are many. From their traditional role in the hospital to today’s corporate boardroom, nurses make a huge impact on the health care industry and the health of communities across the country.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will recognize the importance of nurses on Thursday, May 5, at its annual observance of National Nurses Week. The event will begin at noon at the Chattanoogan Conference Center. More than 300 nurses from BlueCross and area health care facilities, as well as members of the public, are expected to attend.

Tennessee’s First Lady Andrea Conte, a nurse by training, will be the special guest speaker for this year’s appreciation luncheon. The theme of the 2005 event is “Nurses. Many Roles. One Profession.”

According to Sylvia Sherrill, director of government medical management at BlueCross, nurses account for the largest percentage of all health care workers in the United States.

“Nurses are everywhere,” Sherrill said. “Beyond bedside care, they are involved in research, health education, public policy and business. Their influence is pervasive and essential to the quality of care we all receive.”

Although it is estimated that there are 2.7 million nurses in this country today, the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions projects that there will be a deficit of up to 2.8 million registered nurses by 2020. In Tennessee that shortage is projected to reach 36,205 nurses, a 48.5 percent deficit.

“The recruitment and retention of quality nursing professionals is vital to all sectors of health care,” Sherrill said. “We hope events like National Nurses Week will not only help to bring public awareness of the amazing work that is performed by nurses each and every day, but also attract new members to the profession.”

As part of the Nursing Week observance, BlueCross has also organized a public exhibit available for viewing from April 19 to May 13. Located in the 21 windows of the Miller Building at 7th and Market Streets in downtown Chattanooga, the display will highlight the nursing profession and the many roles available to nurses today. Numerous organizations providing displays include the Tennessee Nurses Association, the Case Management Society, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, area hospitals, universities, and colleges.

BlueCross employs nearly 300 nurses who provide care coordination, catastrophic and transplant case management, and lifestyle and health counseling to millions of Tennesseans.

Chattanooga-area nurses or members of the public interested in attending the appreciation luncheon and learning more about BlueCross employment opportunities should RSVP to (423) 535-7376. Space is limited for this free event, so reservations are required.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.